One of the things missing the most from Alexandra Manousakis’ life after moving to Greece was her sister Tatyana— Taty, as the family calls her.
Upon completion of her studies at New York University, Alexandra embarked on a life-changing trip to her father’s homeland of Crete to take over a fledgling family wine business and utilize her US-attained training and skills to turn a small family wine business into one of the best Greek wines in the world.
Alexandra learned fluent Greek— added with a dose of the local Cretan dialect, learned the land and slowly transformed Nostos Wines into a well-known global brand. She got married and is about to start a family now— but Taty was always missing from her life in Crete.
“Family and friends come to visit all the time. We love showing them Hania, our winery— we love sharing our love for this place with visitors,” Alexandra told The Pappas Post.
But in order to see Taty, she would have to return home to the United States.
Taty was born with Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She lives in a care home in New Jersey and her family has hesitated taking her on the trip across the Atlantic to spend time with Alexandra.
It wasn’t the trip that worried them as much as the lack of infrastructure and the mentality of the people, according to Alexandra.
“Why hasn’t she been able to come to Crete? The trip from the U.S. is quite long but the main issue is that Crete is not properly equipped to welcome people in wheelchairs. The infrastructure and the mentality here have not yet been challenged in the way that they should be in order to accommodate people with mobility issues,” Alexandra said.
Despite this, Alexandra insisted that Taty visit Crete the summer of 2015 to attend her wedding and the family’s worst fears came true.
It became next to impossible to move Taty around in her wheelchair in Hania. Alexandra called it a “harsh slap in the face” and rather than complain about it or post photos on social media of cars blocking handicapped access ramps and coffee shops blocking sidewalks with illegal outdoor tables and chairs, she decided to do something about it.
Alexandra launched #RespectLife, a new movement aiming to spread awareness about the challenges that people with mobility issues face in Hania. She hopes the project will open people’s eyes— from drivers who block ramps when they park, to business owners who block sidewalks— and change the mentality of the people in the city who have yet to be challenged with the sensitivities of people with mobility issues and their families.
What is #RespectLife
“The city, the parks, the sidewalks— the most beautiful harbor in Greece— this should all be for everyone to enjoy, not only for people who can walk,” Alexandra said.
“I’ve met people confined to wheelchairs whose families don’t even take them out to enjoy the sunshine or the beauty of the city because they know what the harsh reality of the street is,” she said.
#RespectLife is a project undertaken by Alexandra, in collaboration with Manousakis Winery and the Pancretan Association of America to raise awareness about these issues in Hania, and also raise funds to shoot a film that chronicles the day to day struggles of people with mobility issues.
The website contains testimonies from people who have been impacted, or those seeking to send a message of change and solidarity to their fellow citizens.
Alexandra’s goal is to raise funds to shoot a short film (4-5 minutes in length) that she says, will “open people’s eyes” to these people’s reality. “We hope to show this film in the school system as a way to educate children and show them that it is up to all of us to look out for each other and that every one can do something to help out. The next part of the plan is to buy a few wheelchairs, and send able bodied children and adults on simple tasks throughout the city so that they can experience the difficulty people in wheelchairs face when trying to get around. The video, along with this simple exercise of going to the supermarket-for example- in a wheelchair, will truly make people think differently and have more respect for others.”
Watch Alexandra and her sister Taty: